[From Captain of the Parish, 1897]


MOLROY, on his way to Cairnmore on Sunday afternoon, found Ellen in Creg Awin garden, waiting for his company, and gathering meanwhile a bouquet of flowers-the old-fashioned sort found only in the garden of an upland farm, associated with the memory of the women at whose feet they grew; flowers gone out of fashion since, though perhaps migrated with the emigrants to other climes.

The July sunshine flickered through the foliage of ash and larch in woody Narradale. The brook of Arrosey flashed out into sunlight on the waste of shingle where it joins the river. In the pool below the meeting of the streams, under the ivied rocks, the trout rose lazily and sank again. Ellen and Molroy turned aside at the crossing of the river, and stood on the shingle to watch the trout in the pool. From the steeps of the Vaish Hill, where there is no timber, the sheep looked down on the glancing river. The sky's blue awning and the green steeps of the valley shut in the vision, except where, up the vista of Narradale, was the dome of a purple mountain. There was no sound but the murmur of the waters.

By the woodland road they rose out of the glen. At the farm-gate, on the margin of the fields, half in shade and half in sunshine, with moss and violets and wood-sorrel on one side and the clover on the other, they paused again. They lingered and talked with seemingly serene and calm hearts, but with inarticulate questionings and uncertainties they could not bring into any form of utterance.

An honest and true love may find easy utterance, but men and women of intense natures, who will not separate sanction from love, cannot hope to escape sorrow. Whether they love where there is love in return but no sanction, they suffer. If they love where there is sanction but not love, they suffer also. Molroy lived in the unconscious enjoyment of a powerful and perfect physical life. His intellectual life, conscious and unconscious, was a silent one--observing, but with no eager anxiety; forming conclusions, but slowly and fearlessly; and with a belief in further horizons. In his moral life there was the equanimity of unconscious and inherited virtue.

Nevertheless, as it seemed in the centre of it all, there revolved a perfect maelstrom of turbulency. What emotions were the subtleties of passion, and what emotions were the contentions of love, he knew no more than any other human soul does what time the storm is raging within him. Passion wrought very subtly, and love contended with patient contention. If he did not see in his own breast what the issue would be, it was not easy or possible for Ellen Molvurra to surmise aright. Their exterior semblances belied their hearts. It was easy for her to mistake him, seeing that within her own heart a like struggle was in process. It was thrice easy seeing that her own counsel was darkened. Almost with a gesture of impatience her buoyant foot moved into the fields, from the shadow and resinous aroma of the larchwoods to the sunshine, and the air laden with the sweetness of the clover.

Lizzie and Enos were in the meadow. She was in white muslin, her brown hair evenly parted on her forehead and its crisp waves on her temples, her spirits exhilarated by the dawning of better days. With the warmth of the afternoon there was a pink suffusion of colour in her cheeks. She had seldom been in the rôle of hostess heretofore.

Enos leaned back in his chair, one leg over the knee of the other, a cigar in his mouth, and his wide-awake tilted forward on his brows, seemed to be indolently dreaming as he gazed down the valley. They rose to greet their guests, for whom chairs were already there; and then all sat down, Ellen and Lizzie side by side on lower chairs, Molroy and Milvartin on the wings.

"We're all lovers of sunshine, I suppose?" said Ellen.

"I am, at least," said Enos, "though in America we get about enough of it. Wheat and 'Indian' and tobacco are a contrast, for instance, to oats and potatoes."

"Are there any Manxmen in your part, Milvartin ? " said Molroy.

" yes; I'm constantly coming across them. It's the place for our countrymen."

" Much lawlessness there? " Molroy continued.

"There's more back in the older settlements. It's dying out. A man's life is as safe there as it is here. I have no hesitation in saying a woman's is safer."

" It can hardly be safer, Mr. Milvartin," said Ellen. Lizzie laughed.

" Oh, Enos thinks we have to defend ourselves against desperadoes like Wade, Creer & Co."

"But female desperadoes !" said Ellen.

Enos laughed a dry artificial laugh, holding his cigar in his teeth the while, and continued

" No, Miss Molvurra. What I meant was that out West every woman is a lady."

"That is, treated as such," said Molroy.

"Precisely!" said Enos. "The same distinctions don't hold as here."

" They aren't usually ladies who go out," said Ellen musingly. "You'd be surprised, Miss Molvurra," said Enos. "There are numbers of educated and accomplished ladies of various nationalities even in ranches on the plains."

"They must find it rather monotonous," said Molroy.

"Oh, it has its compensations. They soon get to like the free life, and wouldn't change. They've excitements, travelling on horseback and visiting. Going to see friends at a distance gives visiting a decided flavour."

" Are they given to visiting, Mr. Milvartin ? or do you speak of rare and exceptional pleasures."

"I believe it's the climate, Miss Molvurra. They are constantly on the move. People seem to change their natures when they go West."

"We should not need to change ours for that life," said Lizzie.

" Here a change of nature is got by going to Arrosey Chapel," said Ellen.

"But Mr. Milvartin means a change for the better," said Molroy.

There was a laugh, in which Enos joined, but with his cigar still in his teeth.

"The West would suit you, Mr. Molroy," said Enos. " I have thought of it myself," said Molroy.

You never told us, John. Do you hear, Lizzie ? " said Ellen.

" It's not too late yet," said Enos. "Men of education rise to the first positions. They have a great advantage. What can a man do in a place like the Island?"

"Mr. Milvartin, you speak to the wrong man. Mr. Molroy is a patriot," said Ellen. "Besides, he's going into the Keys at the next vacancy. That's an open secret, Mr. Milvartin." "Say I'm not ambitious, Ellen, and am content with the island. But Mr. Milvartin is right. Life at home doesn't appeal to the imagination."

"But, Enos," said Lizzie, "why do you men who have gone abroad like to come back and settle down at home? "

" Hardly true of myself, Lizzie," said Enos. " I'll tell you what, Mr. Molroy," he continued. " I'd swop the Island for a section of Western territory, and embark every man, woman, and child on the Island to make a new nation out there."

"You see the imagination of that," said Molroy. "But you'd have some precious obstinate old conservatives in the company, Milvartin."

"A sort of exodus, like the children of Israel going to the " promised land," said Ellen.

"Not unlike it, Miss Molvurra," said Enos blandly.

"Then this must be Egypt to you, Enos?" said Lizzie gravely.

"It's more like Jacob and his caravan leaving Canaan because of the famine," said Molroy.

Under the ash trees on the edge of the meadow the hours glided away, the sunshine proving a sweet anęsthetic to lull their spirits into a mood reflecting the all-pervading peace of Sunday.

"John, I want to bring tea out. Come with me," said Lizzie.

Old Charley and Mrs. Milvartin were sitting on the stone bench by the house-wall. Molroy joined them till Lizzie had prepared tea. In the kitchen, while loading himself with tea-things, he said to her

"Are they coming?" and nodded to indicate the old people. "They think we can enjoy ourselves more without them," she said, with contracted brows. She saw his look. " Not that exactly," she said, half correcting herself. "They think Enos-"

"No ! " he said, " don't stand that sort of thing! "

" Mother," said Lizzie, coming outside, with clearer conviction of what was right, "you must come down with us." "Was he saying so?" said old Mrs. Milvartin eagerly. "No, mother; but we all want you. John Molroy wants you."

"Does he? Aw, well, it's like we'll have to go," said old Charley promptly.

"Aw, 'deed, he's like his mother, straight enough," said old Mrs. Milvartin.

Meanwhile Ellen and Enos sat in the meadow. When he saw the old people coming from the house, he said to her in a low, even tone of invincibly disguised sincerity and ingenuousness

" Oh, they're coming? When Mr. Molroy asks them it's another matter ! "

" Did they not wish to come before?" said Ellen.

"No! But Mr. Molroy is a person of much greater consequence here than I am. I don't find fault with it, of course."

Ellen looked across the meadow. She understood what he seemed quite unintentionally to convey, and she believed it. The old people came down, as if uncertain of a welcome. The struggle against overwhelming poverty had prostrated their spirits. Ellen rose and placed Mrs. Milvartin in her chair, then Lizzie came and Molroy. The words of Enos had given the turn to Ellen's conviction. She saw Lizzie's involuntary glances. When Molroy brought her a chair, she placed it where she could see Lizzie's face.

"It's a nice meadow this," said old Charley. "It's not changed since you went foreign, Enos."

"There's been changes, though. You'll see changes, Enos," said old Mrs. Milvartin.

"He'll see a change in me," said Molroy, perceiving the fainness of the old people for a little cordial talk in circumstances so natural.

"Aw, aye, 'deed he will. Do you remember him at all, Enos, before you went foreign?" said the old man.

"Aw, 'deed he'll remember him," said old Mrs. Milvartin. "There are great changes in that way," said Enos, "more than in the place."

" The place sees the changes," said old Mrs. Milvartin. " When you were a little boy, Enos, you were fond of play ing in the meadow." She wiped a tear rather of joy than of sorrow from her grey eyes. "Twenty years ago, they would be all of them playing in the meadow on a Sunday like to-day, and me carrying Lizzie here in my arms."

"Aw, the place has seen changes, changes enough," said old Charley.

"'Deed it would been hard to leave it," said old Mrs. Milvartin.

" I would have thought hard uncommon of it," said old Charley cheerfully.

Enos sipped his tea, smoothing his moustache, gazing on the windings of the valley below, with the sunbrown and glow of sunny America on his face and hair, and its visions still in his eyes. Molroy stood in the rear of the circle. Lizzie sat listening, looking from her father to Molroy, as if to evoke sympathy in the unwonted happiness of the old man. Ellen, just outside the shade of the ash trees, under her parasol, also listened to the overflowing of the old people's hearts, and saw in Lizzie's uplifted eyes her unmistakable secret. They sat till the sun had worn well to the west, and the hillside grew golden in the evening glow. Old Charley had lit his pipe, and old Mrs. Milvartin sat with folded hands beside him. The young people were going to the Cairn to watch the sunset.

On the Cairn summit they sat down and gazed on the glory of the west. The features of Enos were fixed and calm, his eyes restlessly shifting.

" Years ago, I used to know the soundings all over the channel there," he said musingly.

"There's a bundle of nets of yours in the house yet, Enos," said Lizzie.

"Inchport ! " he said, as if the nets and the fishing-town came into his thought in the one wave of association, and he looked towards the distant town. "By-the-bye," he said, coming out of his reverie, "some American friends are staying at Inchport. Will you come down to Callister's for a day or two, Mr. Molroy, and make their acquaintance?" He rose to his feet. "Now don't say no. I depend on you to come."

"Certainly, Milvartin. I have no objection-in fact, the contrary," said Molroy.

"And what about your coming, Lizzie?" said Enos.

"Oh, that's settled, too. Ellen will join me: she has promised," said Lizzie.

" Good ! " said Enos, and lit a cigar.

As they came down the hill, Lizzie and Molroy were together, just as they had gone up.

"You're going to Inchport too?" she said. "Or rather, you're going too," he said.

" Well, I don't often get outings. Are you glad ? " And she looked in his face with smiling scrutiny. " Neither glad, nor anything; just serious. Ah ! well, it's different with me. I don't get away so often," she said musingly.

" It will be delightful, no doubt," said Molroy.

"John," she said, looking into his face from under her broad hat, trimmed with leaves of scarlet and copper-brown, above the brown of her hair, her eyes open wide, with a look of confidence.

"Well?" he said, meeting her look with a smile as if to deprecate seriousness.

"You will help me? I mean, tell me what to do and how to act. I'm not used to great people, and Enos won't trouble himself."

"But they're not great people, Lizzie."

They are. After what he said, I'm surprised that he asked me to go. Ah ! if you had a sister!"

" Now, a moment ago you were serious."

" Listen ! I am serious still. Miss Molroy of Arrosey would be very proud-too proud to make me her companion, perhaps. Ellen would be her friend-perhaps the only one.

But still-" She mused a moment, a smile playing in her eyes. " I wish you had a sister, all the same."

Not feigning to doubt his willingness, but with a manner that eschewed familiarity, she said again

"You will help me?" "Yes, of course."

"And there's to be a dance at Corelly's Hotel. I intend to be punctilious. Do you hear? Punctilious." She spoke with her eyes on the flowers over which they were walking. "I mean, I haven't always been so."

She raised her beautiful grey eyes, trustful and innocent as a child of three years old. He saw her in a new guise. He saw almost with trepidation that a power which he had not seen before, and had not suspected before, a higher phase of mind, a new condition, a new exaltation of soul, had descended on her. " She is altered," he said to himself, with a new conviction. It had a meaning. He felt her worth real now for the first time.

"I promised to ride in to Inchport this evening," said Enos on the farm street; "but we'll stroll on as far as the Creg, -Lizzie."

When they parted at Creg Awin gate, neither Ellen nor Molroy suspected that Enos had already come between them.


Back index next

Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2006